Tagged: Cubs

Resiliency-R-Us, Open All Night…

Credit:  MLB.com

When you have one of Baseball’s elite closers on the mound with a three run lead in the bottom of the 9th, it should be game over.  Sadly, it was an off night for Aroldis Chapman as he allowed three runs before being pulled from the game.  From that point, it felt like it was only a matter of time before the Chicago Cubs pulled off a walk-off.  Fortunately, these are not the 2016 New York Yankees.

In an 18-inning affair that lasted six hours and five minutes (sorry, I didn’t stay up), Aaron Hicks , Ronald Torreyes and Starlin Castro emerged as the heroes of heroes.  Leading off the 18th, Aaron Hicks bunted toward third and reached second thanks to a throwing error by Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras.  After a sacrifice bunt by Torreyes moved Hicks to third, he scored on a grounder to short by Castro.

When Chasen Shreve (1-0) struck out Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks at 2:13 a.m., the Yankees (20-9) had completed an improbable and very exhausting 5-4 victory.

It’s tough to play a night game on “getaway” day, but even tougher to play what essentially equates to a double-header in terms of innings played.  It was an incredible job by the bullpen for anyone not named Chapman.  Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder and Shreve combined for 9 1/3 innings of scoreless relief following Chapman’s blown save.  The Yankees and Cubs set a Major League record for strikeouts with 48.  Yankees pitchers accounted for 26 of those K’s, including 9 by starter Luis Severino and 5 by Shreve.  The Cubs also set a record by using three pitchers as pinch-hitters.  

I am thankful the Yankees didn’t have to employ the last man standing in the bullpen (Tommy Layne) given his recent propensity for watching the opponent score while he is on the mound.  

Chapman’s underwhelming performance against his World Series teammates wasted another great start by Severino.  With a four-hitter in 7 innings of work while allowing only a single run (a 2nd inning home run by Javier Baez), he bested former Boston Red Sox nemesis Jon Lester and stood in line for the victory until Chapman let it get away.  A run scoring triple by Aaron Judge in the 7th inning had put Severino in position to win, with a two-run homer by Jacoby Ellsbury in the 8th for support.  But the Cubs, stealing a page from these exciting young Pinstripers, showed that the game is not over ’til it’s over…to borrow a line from legendary Yankees catcher Yogi Berra.  

Castro completed his three day Chicago reunion with 2 RBI’s despite an 0-for-8 night.  He also had a run-scoring ground-out in the first inning.  

The game had its humorous moment when left fielder Aaron Hicks lost sight of Baez’s home run ball.  That’s how I would play every inning…

Credit:  MLB.com

Matt Holliday did a solid job with his first Yankees start at first base.  He went 2-for-4 until he was lifted for pinch-hitter Chris Carter.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see Holliday play some more first base in Cincinnati.  Heck, at this point, the Yankees should probably play Aaron Hicks at first.  They have to find ways to keep that dude’s bat in the lineup.  

For the Yankees, they became only the second team to sweep the Cubs this season.  They maintained a half-game over the Baltimore Orioles for the AL East lead.  The O’s had a broom of their own with a weekend sweep of the Chicago White Sox.  Sadly, the Red Sox won again after providing 17 runs for their ace, Chris Sale.  

The Yankees make a short hop to Cincinnati, Ohio for a game against former Yankees top pitching prospect Rookie Davis and the Cincinnati Reds later today.  I would generally say that the Yankees may be a little sluggish after the late night, but that would be underestimating the resiliency of this team.  It will be a challenge as the Reds (17-14) are the current leader in the NL Central, thanks to the Yankees’ sweep of the Cubs.  But if any team can find a way, I’ll take my chances with the Yankees.

Have a great Monday!  Hopefully we’re in line for a restful and victorious day!

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True Statement — The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field!…

Credit:  Chris Sweda/The Chicago Tribune

While the Cubs did have their chances, Saturday’s game felt like it was over after the Yankees took their first swings in the top of the first inning en route to the 11-6 victory.  Admittedly, I felt badly for Cubs starter Brett Anderson.  He gave up three doubles, two singles and a bunt with a throwing error that led to multiple runs.  When Anderson departed after 23 pitches, he had gotten only one out…a swinging strikeout by Aaron Judge.  The Yankees held a 5-0 advantage, and we were off the races.

Anderson was once a promising young starter for the Oakland A’s.  He’s pitched very well when healthy, but unfortunately health has not been his friend.  He made 31 starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 and then missed most of last year after surgery for a bulging disk in his back.  After yesterday’s start, Anderson was showing signs of back trouble so yet another DL-stint is likely.  After the game, Anderson said that it was “embarrassing”.  He went on to say “Whenever the backup catcher gets more outs than you, it’s not a positive”. Cubs catcher Miguel Montero pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the Cubs although he did walk two. Hopefully Anderson is able to recover from his latest setback.

Credit:  Chris Sweda/The Chicago Tribune

Jordan Montgomery (2-1) was solid again for the Yankees as he continues to cement his role in the starting rotation.  He made it into the seventh inning until running into some trouble after throwing 100 pitches.  He allowed 3 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out 3.  He did walk 4 batters.  After two groundouts in the top of the 7th, it looked like it was going to be another quiet inning for Monty.  But he walked Jon Jay and it was followed by a run-scoring triple by former Tampa Bay Rays nemesis Ben Zobrist which ended Montgomery’s day.  

Aaron Hicks, subbing for Jacoby Ellsbury who is still nursing a sore elbow, delivered the clinching shot, a three-run homer in the eighth inning, that put the Yanks up 11-3.  The Cubbies tried to mount a rally in the bottom of the 8th against reliever Tommy Layne, scoring three runs.  Adam Warren came in with a runner at first (Miguel Montero) and two outs.  He allowed a double to Jon Jay which advanced Montero to third.  Ben Zobrist came to bat with a chance to chip away at the 11-6 Yanks lead but Warren struck him out swinging.  Another nice job by the  2016 World Series ring holder.  

Credit:  Tannen Maury/EPA

Hicks finished the day 4-for-5 with 3 RBI’s and 3 runs scored.  He continues to impress and is making it hard for Manager Joe Girardi to keep him on the bench.  I read one columnist who suggested that Hicks should permanently replace center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.  I wouldn’t necessarily argue but are we really only four years into Ellsbury’s seven-year $153 contract?  The end of the contract seems so friggin’ far away.  Despite his recent heroics, Brett Gardner remains the more marketable outfielder and it seems that it would make more sense to move him to make room for Hicks…unless GM Brian Cashman would hoodwink some other GM into taking Ellsbury off his hands.  Maybe ply former buddy Billy Eppler with some tequila when the Yankees visit Anaheim in mid-June.  

The other hitting star of the game was the former Chicago Cub Starlin Castro.  You know that he enjoyed his fourth inning home run.  He even paused for a moment to enjoy the view as the ball traveled to the left outfield bleachers.  Increasing his batting average to .381, Castro went 3-for-4.  He had 3 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  Starlin has been enjoying his time at Wrigley Field so I am sure these games will be memorable to him for a very long time.  

Credit:  Chris Sweda/The Chicago Tribune

The Yankees maintained their half-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.  The O’s held off a late challenge by the Chicago White Sox to win 6-5.  Sadly the Boston Red Sox also won.  

I’ve said it before but Tommy Layne is just not doing it for me this year.  His appearance always seems to be accompanied by multiple runs for the opponent.  His ERA is now an unsightly 9.45 after giving up the 3 runs to the Cubs while only recording 2 outs.  I will gladly take Chasen Shreve as my lefty specialist over Layne.  I think we’re seeing why the Boston Red Sox gave up on Layne last year.

I wonder if we’ll see Matt Holliday at first base today as the Yankees face an old foe in former Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester.  It should be a great game as the Yankees go for a sweep with Luis Severino on the mound.

The Yankees completed their off-season trade that sent reliever Nick Goody to the Cleveland Indians.  On Friday, they acquired 21 year-old pitcher Yoiber Marquina, a converted catcher, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this month.  The Yankees see promise in Marquina’s lively arm, but meanwhile Goody is delivering the goods for the Indians.  He has an 0.00 ERA in 7 appearances with 10 strikeouts.  He has allowed only three hits in 9 1/3 innings of work.  Sounds like the Indians are making up for lost ground with the talent they gave up in the Andrew Miller trade.

I saw the debate that TGP’s Daniel Burch sparked yesterday when he suggested that the Yankees should trade backup catcher Austin Romine.  My first question is why?  Unless you can include Romine in a trade for a frontline pitcher, I do not see the motivation to make a deal.  He has shown that he can be a very valuable backup catcher.  It’s not that I dislike Kyle Higashioka, but Romine has earned his shot to be a member of the New York Yankees.  If you tell me that the Yankees could acquire Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates (don’t we always send our catchers to the Steel City?) by including Romine with other prospects, I’m on board.  Otherwise, I think Romine should stay.  

I am not trying to look ahead but the Yankees will, for the first time, face the ramifications of their  December 2015 trade for closer Aroldis Chapman.  The team will be traveling to Cincinnati after they complete the three game series against the Cubs later today.  On Monday, they’ll face former top pitching prospect Rookie Davis who is scheduled to start opposite Masahiro Tanaka.  Davis is the only player on the Reds MLB roster in the deal that sent Davis, third baseman Eric Jagielo, pitcher Caleb Cotham, and second baseman Tony Renda to Cincy.  

Credit:  Justin Berl/Getty Images

Have a great Sunday!  Let’s hope the wind carries us to a sweep out of Chicago!

It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane, no, it’s Gardyman!…

Credit:  David Banks/USA TODAY Sports

It is frustrating when the Yankees lose games they should have won so there was satisfaction with Friday afternoon’s stunning victory over the Chicago Cubs, 3-2, thanks to a ninth inning two-out, two-strike three-run home run by Brett Gardner.  The Yankees had their chances early in the game, but seemed to self-sabotage every attempt to push runs across the plate.  

The Yankees were fortunate that Cubs closer Wade Davis was unavailable after pitching in the three preceding games for the Northsiders.  Davis is currently 2-0 with an 0.00 ERA in 13 1/3 innings.  He has 15 strikeouts and has only given up four hits and walks.  His WHIP is a paltry 0.60.  I’ve read a few Chicago articles that think the Cubs upgraded the closing position with the addition of Wade Davis (a bit of a slam against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman).  But with Davis unavailable, the Cubs were forced to turn to former closer, Hector Rondon, who had been displaced last July when Chapman arrived.  

Honestly, it didn’t feel like Gardner was going to emerge from the day victorious.  After he reached two strikes, he fouled off a couple of Rondon pitches to stay alive.  It felt like Rondon just needed to put one in the outside corner to earn his first save of the season.  Instead, he left the pitch in the exact spot that he shouldn’t have…low and inside.  That’s all Gardner needed to deposit the pitch in the outfield bleachers.  

The Gardner home run put the game in the hands of former Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman.  It wasn’t pretty when the first batter, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, reached second base as a result of a Chase Headley error.  With the game-tying run on second and no outs, Chapman retired the next three batters which included a swinging third strike by Cubs powerful second baseman Javier Baez to end the game.

Hats off to Michael Pineda.  I know that he gave up two home runs, but he could’ve folded like a cheap suit as he has in years past.  He held the Cubs to only two runs on the solo homers and only three hits overall in six innings of work.  He struck out six and walked only one.  It was a quality start and there’s no way the Yankees could have staged the improbable comeback if not for Pineda’s efforts.  

The win moved the Yankees to 18-9.  They precariously remain in sole possession of first place in the AL East by a half-game over the Baltimore Orioles.  The Orioles beat the Chicago White Sox 4-2 despite starting pitcher Wade Miley being hit by successive line drives 12 pitches into the game that forced his departure.  

Aroldis Chapman received his World Series ring prior to the start of the game.  It was good to see him receive recognition for his contributions for helping to bring the first World Series championship to Chicago for the Cubs in 108 years.  People tend to remember the game-tying home run that a weary Chapman gave up in Game 7 but the Cubs would not have been in the World Series if not for #54.  

Credit:  Tannen Maury/EPA

Adam Warren also received his World Series ring as a member of the 2016 Cubs, but he chose a private ceremony (he wanted the spotlight on the Yankees closer since Chapman was part of the post-season team that won the World Series plus he didn’t feel right wearing Yankees gear with a Cubs ring…’Attaboy, Adam!).  

It was also a fun day for former Cubs shortstop/second baseman Starlin Castro.  He received a standing ovation as the Cubs played his walk-up music when he came up to bat for the first time.  There’s no doubt it was an emotional day for Castro who remains appreciative of the Cubs for giving him his first opportunity in Major League Baseball.  

Credit:  Getty Images

Gary Sanchez was activated before the game and went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.  Kyle Higashioka was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/WilkesBarre after failing to record in a hit in 18 at-bats.  I had really been hoping that he could have gotten that first one out of the way before heading back to Eastern Pennsylvania.  

Have a great Saturday!  Sounds like it may be a cold, windy night in Chicago.  Hopefully it will be a memorable evening for the Baby Bombers in the Windy City.  

I Left My Heart in San Fran…I mean, Chicago!…

Credit:  Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

ChiTown is spreading the love for our second baseman, Starlin Castro.  From comments by Cubs manager Joe Maddon “He was a great teammate here” to current Cubs players like Anthony Rizzo “He played hard and played every day”, the warm accolades about Castro are overflowing in the Chicago papers.  As Rizzo went on to say, “He was here for a while and part of this two-year run.  But I’m sure he was pulling for us.  I’m sure it would have been great for him to be a part of it, too, but I think a little part of him was.”

The Cubs will honor Castro before today’s game at Wrigley Field as a thank you for his contributions while a long-time member of the Cubs organization.  From the 2010 to 2015 seasons, Castro played in 891 games and batted .281/.321/.404.  He hit 62 home runs with 363 RBI’s and 75 stolen bases. 

I am sure that it will be tough for Castro to watch Adam Warren and Aroldis Chapman accept their World Series rings from Cubs President Theo Epstein and Maddon, considering he was part of the rebuilding effort that led to the championship run.  He played six seasons in Chicago’s North Side, while you could piece together only one season collectively for Warren and Chapman (if you include Warren’s time in the minors). 

Credit:  Jonathan Danie/Getty Images

I fully expect a loud and rousing ovation for Castro when he comes to bat for the first time today.  He has always said the right things about his time in Chicago and I don’t think I really understood before how willing Castro was to accept the position change from shortstop to second base during his final months as a Cub.  It had to have been a huge letdown but he didn’t complain or argue.  He embraced the change and has continued to improve as a second baseman.  

I am very happy that he’ll be recognized by the city of Chicago and Cubs fans.  But of course, once the first pitch is thrown, he is a Yankee and his job will be to beat the Cubs.

While three Yankees will be having fun reminiscing, one Yankee returns to the field of his arch-rival.  With so many years in St Louis as a member of the Cardinals, Wrigley Field is like a Yankee setting foot on Fenway Park turf for Matt Holliday.  He’ll have no trouble going to war when the games begin.  

Credit:  Getty Images

It will also be interesting to see how Chapman does.  I don’t expect any spillover from his negative comments about his handling by Joe Maddon in the World Series (the two have apparently talked and mended fences since then, plus Chapman was right).  I think Aroldis will be a pro when he takes the mound.  He played a huge role in getting the Cubs to the World Series and certainly deserves the ring he’ll receive.

Credit:  Jon Durr/Getty Images

I forgot to mention Yankees manager Joe Girardi as this is a homecoming for him too.  A Chicagoland native, he is also a former Cub (1989-1992, 2000-2002).  I am sure that he’ll have fun visiting with friends and family.  When I think of Girardi and the Cubs, it always reminds me of a very tragic day.  On June 22, 2002, Girardi, then the Cubs catcher, took the microphone to speak to the Wrigley Field crowd moments after a game with the Cardinals was scheduled to begin.  A very emotional Girardi spoke the words “I thank you for your patience.  We regret to inform you because of a tragedy in the Cardinals family, the Commissioner has cancelled the game today.  I ask you to say a prayer for the St Louis Cardinals family.”  The crowd was silenced.  The name had not yet been released but we subsequently found out that Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile had been found dead (heart disease) in his hotel room. I have always admired Girardi for how he handled the situation that day even though he didn’t know Kile.  

Among the Coaching Staff, Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild was the long-time pitching coach for the Cubs prior to his arrival in New York (from 2002 to 2010).  Bullpen coach Mike Harkey played for the Cubs in 1988 and 1990-1993.  

Here are the pitching match-ups for the Yankees-Cubs series:

FRIDAY

NYY:  Michael Pineda (3-1, 3.14 ERA)

CHC:  Kyle Hendricks (2-1, 4.18 ERA)

SATURDAY

NYY:  Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 4.15 ERA)

CHC:  Brett Anderson (2-1, 6.23 ERA)

SUNDAY

NYY:  Luis Severino (2-2, 3.86 ERA)

CHC:  Jon Lester (1-1, 3.67 ERA)

Gary Sanchez is expected to be activated before today’s game.  He is the one guy capable of stealing ratings away from The Aaron Judge Show.  It’s going to be so much fun watching those two in the lineup together again.  It’s an awesome time to be a Yankees fan!

Credit:  Seth Wenig/AP

Have a great Friday!  Let’s show the World Champions that we can play this game!

The Rookies Have Been Judged…

Credit:  Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Live from New York, it’s The Aaron Judge Show!

Aaron Judge has been named AL Rookie of the Month for April.  He becomes the fourth Yankee to win the award.  The previous winners were Hideki Matsui (June 2003), Robinson Cano (September 2005), and Gary Sanchez (August 2016).

For the month, Judge was a little busy:

  • 1st in AL with 23 runs, .750 SLG
  • Tied for 1st in AL with 10 home runs
  • Tied for 5th in AL with 20 RBI’s

Judge was also the leader with exit velocity.  His homer off Greg Bird’s high school buddy, Kevin Gausman of the Baltimore Orioles, on April 28th had an exit velocity of 119.4 mph.  He was also seventh in the AL with the longest home run (457 feet).  I still expect Judge to top 500 feet at some point.  The current major league leader is Jake Lamb of the Arizona Diamondbacks at 481 feet.  

I have not really had a favorite Yankee since Mariano Rivera retired but I am certainly a huge fan of Judge.  I just can’t decide who I like better…Judge or Gary Sanchez.  Well, I’d have to put Aroldis Chapman into the group as I’ve always loved a great closer dating back to the Rich “Goose” Gossage days, or maybe even Sparky Lyle.  All I know is that Judge and Sanchez are incredibly fun to watch.  Looking forward to getting the band back together this weekend when Sanchez returns from the DL.  

Congrats to Aaron for the AL Rookie of the Month Award.  I will really go out on a limb and say this is the first of many awards for the talented young slugger.  Seriously, I thought he was going to be good when he figured this level out but I was never expecting this type of performance.  There’s no way he can sustain it (can he?) but for now I’m enjoying the ride!

I was reading some columns on The Bleacher Report yesterday and I came across one that referenced the single thing every team should do right now.  For the Yankees, it was cutting Tommy Layne and promoting Luis Cessa.  I have to admit that I am probably on board with cutting Layne.  After his release by the Boston Red Sox last year, he did a decent job for the Yankees.  He was 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in 16 innings pitched.  He gave up 10 hits, 6 runs, 7 walks, and struck out 13.  His WHIP was 1.063.  This year, at least for his last few outings, he’s been touched for runs.  He is currently carrying a 6.00 ERA in 6 innings pitched.  He has allowed 9 hits, 4 earned runs, and 3 walks.  He has struck out 7.  The innings aren’t sufficient to give great credibility to his WHIP but it is presently very high at 2.00.  Bottomline, Tommy Layne is what he is.  He will never be Andrew Miller and he is not a pitcher with great upside.  He’s replaceable.  The Yankees currently have a better lefty on the 25-man roster in Chasen Shreve.  I have no problem with cutting Layne loose to free up a spot on the 40-man roster.  As for who should take Layne’s place, I would not have any issues with Cessa.  I like him and think he provides a good option for long relief and rotation insurance as a potential back-end starter.  I remain a Bryan Mitchell fan, and there are probably a couple of other pitchers on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster that I could buy into over Layne.  

I feel every youth movement is best served with a combination of veterans and young talent.  If the veterans perform, they should stay.  If they don’t, I’d have no problems showing them the door.  But then again, I don’t write the checks.  I am tired of uneven and at times horrific play from overpaid, aging veterans.  I started to buy into the early season results of CC Sabathia but his last few starts have only reaffirmed that he is clearly no longer the pitcher he once was.  I am ready to move on.  I’d rather see a young pitcher learn at the Major League level like Jordan Montgomery is currently doing than pay an aged veteran who is just collecting paychecks until contract expiration or release.  CC has been great in the clubhouse but there are other guys who can rise to the challenge. I am more tolerant of mistakes by a young player who is learning than a veteran showing signs of decay.  

Credit:  Bill Kostroun/AP

Speaking of Sabathia, the results were not pretty on Wednesday night.  Before the Yankees had even picked up a bat, CC had put the team in a 4-0 hole against the Toronto Blue Jays.  Justin Smoak delivered a run-scoring single in the top of the first inning and Steve Pearce, who had two homers the night before, followed with a three-run home run.  Fortunately, the Yankees answered quickly as Matt Holliday hit his 300th career home run in the bottom of the frame, driving in three runs.  It seemed like it wasn’t going to be the Yankees’ night when the Blue Jays scored two more runs in the second inning to go up 6-3.  But these are the new and improved Yankees and when the April AL Rookie of the Month came to the plate with Starlin Castro on first base in the third inning, it was a one run game again as Judge sent a Marcus Stroman offering 426 feet over the center field wall.  Fortunately, Sabathia would not allow further damage although he was gone after just four innings.  His line for the night:  4.0 IP, 7 H, 6 R/ER, 4 BB, 5 SO.  In just two games, Sabathia’s ERA has gone from 2.70 to 5.45.  Sabathia pitched to two batters in the top of the fifth without recording an out, giving up a walk and a single.  Adam Warren came in and stopped the potential Jays rally.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Yankees scored three runs to take the lead.  Two run scoring singles and a bases loaded walk put the Yankees up 8-6.  They could have gotten more runs, but Matt Holliday hit into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded to end the inning.  At that point, the game was in the hands of the dynamic duo, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.

The Blue Jays didn’t threaten in those final two innings, although the game’s final batter, Russell Martin, had the benefit of four strikes before ending the game.  The umps missed a call when Martin swung and missed for an apparent third strike which subsequently bounced off his shoulder.  It should have been game over, but was not.  It took two more Chapman pitches, but the last one gave the Yankees closer his sixth save of the season.  The Yankees win, 8-6.  

Thanks to another Boston Red Sox victory over Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees (17-9) took sole possession of first place in the AL East.  There seems to be much bad blood in Boston between the O’s Manny Machado and the Red Sox.  I can’t help but think this plays into the Yankees’ hands for when Machado becomes a free agent in a couple of years.  There’s nothing better than beating the Red Sox wearing pinstripes.   

Today is an off day as the Yankees make their way to Chicago.  TV is going to be so boring tonight.  I have really gotten used to watching The Aaron Judge Show every day.  I guess I’ll just have to look forward to Friday afternoon when Michael Pineda takes the mound agains the Cubs.

Have a great and restful Thursday!

Warp Speed to Opening Day…

At the conclusion of the World Series, the off-season seems like it will be so long.  We wait for the opening of free agency, then the winter meetings  which generally brings a short frenzy with signings and trades.  Then we wait through the holidays, and go through a quiet January.  Finally, around Valentine’s Day, we are able to get our baseball fix as training camps begin to open.

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Then, we blink, and here we are a week away from Opening Day.  Cubs fans are probably still trying to recover from the hangovers, but the rest of us are anxious to begin the new year and at this point, everyone is optimistic.

The Yankees’ off-season was relatively quiet.  The major move, aside from the return of Aroldis Chapman, was to sign free agent Matt Holliday, now the team’s starting DH.  Matt’s days in the field, at age 37, are over but the bat remains effective and so do the leadership abilities.  I’ve been very pleased this spring with the impact that Matt has had on the younger players, most notably Aaron Judge.  With only a one-year contract, it is possible that this is Matt’s only year in pinstripes.  Time will tell, but given what I’ve seen so far, I hope the team is able to find a way to bring him back next year.

Matt Holliday

Credit:  Matt Rourke, AP

I am not sure what can be said about Masahiro Tanaka other than he’s been amazing this spring.  Through five starts and 18 2/3 innings, he’s only surrendered six hits while striking out 22 to go with a sparkling 0.00 ERA.  I realize that spring stats do not mean a great deal but Tanaka appears to be setting himself up for a career year.  Of course that carries good news/bad news as Tanaka can opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but that’s something to worry about after the season.  For now, let’s just enjoy what could be a tremendous year for the young right-hander.

Manager Joe Girardi has announced that CC Sabathia, rather than Michael Pineda, will slot in the rotation behind Tanaka.  It was something of a surprise given CC was fighting for the fifth spot last spring.  Girardi gave the ‘right-left’right’ strategy as his logic for the move, putting the left-handed Sabathia between two righties.  He also referenced Sabathia’s numbers last year…3.91 ERA in 30 starts.  His record was only 9-12 but wins and losses are deceiving for pitchers as they are dependent upon run support.

I am not sure how Pineda will react to the move back to third in the rotation.  If it motivates him to overcome his inconsistency, I am all for it.  The starting rotation needs a solid year from Pineda if it is going to be successful.

The fight for the last two spots in the rotation has been interesting.  At the start of training camp, I felt the favorites were Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.  Severino started strong and then has struggled with starts recently (although he did throw three hitless innings in relief yesterday).  Mitchell has been good but not great.  Chad Green has probably pitched the best among the contenders but the dark horse that is emerging is tall left-hander Jordan Montgomery.  Luis Cessa, one of the early hopefuls, has already been sent to minor league camp for re-assignment.  At 6’6” with an ability to pitch inside, I am very intrigued by Montgomery. He has proven himself at both the AA and AAA levels, and I think the 24-year-old is ready for the major leagues.

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Credit:  Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports

In the right field competition, I think Aaron Judge has done enough to hold off Aaron Hicks.  The stats are fairly comparable.  Judge is batting .300 (15-for-50) with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Although he is still among the leaders in strikeouts (with 12), he is striking out less than he did last season in the Bronx.  Hicks is batting .279 (12-for-43), also with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Hicks has struck out seven times.  Judge has also displayed a terrific arm in right.  For me, Judge has done what he needs to this spring and deserves the opportunity to take right field.

Greg Bird has been named the starting first baseman to the surprise of no one.  Bird currently carries a .432 BA (19-for-44) with 6 HR and 11 RBI.  I don’t think there was any chance that Chris Carter was going to beat out Bird, but Carter has been almost non-existent during training camp.  He is currently batting .136 (6-for-44) which is actually up from where it was a few days ago.  He only has one home run to go with 22 strikeouts.  I think there’s a very strong argument for why Carter should be DFA’d when Tyler Austin returns from his foot injury.

With the final days of training camp winding down, the greatest uncertainty lies with shortstop.  Didi Gregorius is out for the next month after suffering the shoulder sprain in the World Baseball Classic, so the question is who will replace Didi at short.  The most logical move would be to slide Starlin Castro to short, and use a platoon of Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder at second.  For me, it’s not ideal because Castro is still learning the nuances of second base and it should remain his focus.  The only problem is there are no other true shortstops on the 40-man roster.  Prospect Tyler Wade is the most advanced shortstop in the system and he’s probably my favorite for the temporary replacement but he’s young (only 22).  He’s batting .342 in Grapefruit League action (13-for-38) but doesn’t have much power.  Other possibilites are non-roster invitees Pete Kozma and Ruben Tejada.  Didi’s bat will certainly be missed while he is away.

With the latest minor league re-assignments, the Yankees have 39 players remaining in camp.  This includes the injured players (Tyler Austin and Didi Gregorius).  With Opening Day just a week away, there will be more cuts this week as the Yankees pare down to 25 for the trip to St Petersburg to face the Tampa Bay Rays on April 2nd.

This has been a fun spring.  The Yankees have the best record in the Grapefruit League (or the Cactus League for that matter).  I know that spring stats mean nothing when the regular season starts but winning is always fun.  We’ve seen some great stuff from the talented super-prospects in the organization like Gleyber Torres and James Kaprielian.  Although they won’t be heading north with the big league club, they’ve given us glimpses of their incredible futures.  Gary Sanchez has continued to impress and Greg Bird has shown that last year’s shoulder injury is no longer an issue.  I am anxious and ready for the season to start.  The Cubs are yesterday’s news.

Words create such a reaction…

Don’t say it!…

As soon as I saw the words that Aroldis Chapman had claimed overuse by Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, I knew it would go viral.  Within minutes, the internet was flooded with stories saying Chapman had slammed Maddon.

Given that Chapman has spent time in New York (and Chicago), one would think that he would know the importance of choosing his words wisely.  In Cincinnati, he probably could have said those words, generating a few chuckles from the reporters, and never another word.  But in New York, everything is magnified.  I personally do not think Chapman meant any harm with the words nor does he hold any ill will towards Maddon and the Cubs.  He qualified his comments by saying that he was to be ready to do his job.  Maddon unnecessarily responded to the comments by saying that he had to win and Chapman always said yes.

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Credit:  Jamie Squire, Getty Images

I do not blame either man.  In the play-offs and particularly the World Series, you leave it on the field.  Whatever it takes.  Was it foolish to bring Chapman into a game with the Cubs up by 5 runs in the 7th inning of Game 6.  Sure, but we weren’t in Maddon’s shoes.  How much did he trust his other relievers?  Did he sense a potential shift in momentum?  Was Chapman simply his best option?  That is Joe Maddon’s decision…not ours.  I felt Chapman was overused and didn’t blame him for the breakdown in Game 7 based on his workload over the preceding couple of nights.  Joe did what he had to do and so did Chapman.  The end result was the first World Series championship in 108 years for the Cubs.  So if Maddon overused Chapman, so be it.  They can cry about it as they collect their World Championship rings.

To me, this is not a red flag.  I know that Joe Girardi will be selective in his use of Chapman and I think the pitcher’s presence on the Yankees is a mutual fit.  I am glad he’s back.  I am sorry for his prior domestic violence issues and while I don’t like what he did, I believe the man is capable of correcting his behavior and deserves the second chance.  I always believed in giving Steve Howe second chances and I got burned on that one, but still, I think Chapman has carried himself well during his time in New York and Chicago.  I look forward to seeing those 105 mph fastballs flying from #54 on the Yankee Stadium mound.

While I like the job Tyler Clippard did in pinstripes, he is clearly not Andrew Miller.  So even with Chapman, the Yankees bullpen is noticeably inferior to last year’s No Runs DMC.  I’d like to see the Yankees pick up another reliever to pair with Clippard as the bridge to Dellin Betances.  I’d like to see the return of former Yankee Boone Logan but would certainly accept other options.

There’s is definitely still work to be done for the bullpen but I can’t begin to say how much better I feel having Chapman back in the fold.

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Credit:  MLB.com

Say it isn’t so…

I was so saddened to hear that Yankees beat writer Mark Feinsand was leaving the New York Daily News this week.  It’s funny how we take the beat writers for granted and we grow to really appreciate the work they do day in and day out.  With Feinsand, I loved his columns, tweets, and podcasts.  He was always so insightful.  But it was a surprising sense of loss when I heard he was leaving the Daily News.

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Credit:  Corey Sipkin, New York Daily News

I don’t know what’s next for Feinsand but I hope it involves the Yankees.

I don’t follow the Brooklyn Nets so admittedly I don’t know much about Feinsand’s replacement, Mike Mazzeo, but I am looking forward to his work.

Congratulations to Feinsand for his terrific work at the Daily News and best of luck in his next endeavor!

—Scott